Smart Gets His Due As Tide DC

Kirby Smart is not the head football coach in waiting at Alabama. He does, however, serve as defensive coordinator for one of the nation's best college football teams. That's one reason he was honored this year with an award as the nation's top assistant coach.

Nevertheless, when Alabama Defensive Coordinator and Secondary Coach Kirby Smart met with the media this week, he was asked if he ever felt that he didn't get the respect he deserved because Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban is perceived as a defensive genius.

Smart doesn't see it that way.

"I'm not a selfish guy," Smart said. "I'm not into all that. To be honest, I was fortunate enough this year to win the Broyles Award, so it's hard for anybody to argue that working for Coach Saban you don't get any credit. It's considered the Assistant Coach of the Year award, and I was able to win it while working for him. I don't think you could actually say that, nor have I ever thought you could say that [working under Saban was a hinderance]."

Smart pointed out that Texas Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp also worked for Saban (at LSU), along with the likes of highly-regarded coaches like Dom Capers and Kevin Steele.

"Nobody [who worked for Saban) has ever felt that way," Smart said. "Coach Saban is very involved, but he's passionate about the game, and his passion carries over to the players.

"I wouldn't want it any other way. It's like having an extra coach. So if you can get an extra coach to help your side of the ball, why wouldn't you use it? That's kind of the way I've always felt about it."

In fact, Saban works under Smart as what Saban calls "the highest-paid G.A. (graduate assistant) in the country.

Saban had praise for Smart, pointing out that his good coaching didn't just begin this year with the Broyles Award recognition. "He did a really good job last year, too," Saban said. "We were statistically pretty good last year. We've got a little more experience on our team this year because a lot of the same players are back from last year. They understand better, we probably made less mental errors.

"Kirby does a good job of implementing what we do because he understands it. And I think he's done a fantastic job not only in implementing the game plan, but in contributing to it, teaching it, and organizing it through the week so the players get the reps on what they need to see that turn out to be what we need to defend in the game.

"We've probably seen more things this year than ever before," Saban said. "That's probably a sign of people trying to exploit you in different ways."

The next team attempting to exploit Alabama will be the Texas Longhorns. Bama is ranked number one in the nation and Texas is number two. Both teams rank among the nation's best defensively and both are 13-0. Alabama kicks off against Texas at 5 p.m. PST (7 p.m. central time) Thursday from the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena. ABC will televise the game.

Saban sometimes notes the instant gratification world we live in. Kirby, who at 34 is in his first year as a defensive coordinator at Alabama, was asked if he worried "about being like a Mickey Andrews where you're a defensive coordinator your entire career?" (Andrews, a former Alabama player, recently retired as defensive coordinator at Florida State.)

Smart said, "To be honest with you, I don't ever think about it or worry about that. I think Mickey Andrews had a hell of a career. He's a father figure to me. I worked for him for two years, and if I ended up coaching at Alabama for the next 30 years or however long he was at Florida State, I'd think my career was a pretty big success.

"No, I don't get concerned with it. My lifelong goal was to ultimately be a defensive coordinator, and if I ever got a chance at a head job, that would be great. But that's not something that I'm going to draw my career and say I was a failure, I didn't get to be a head coach or whatever.I'd be completely content with that. If a better opportunity presents itself, then obviously that's something down the road. But young as I am, I'm happy to be where I'm at and happy to be at The University of Alabama."

The National Championship Game pits defensive coordinators who were college teammates, and who have worked together at several stops.

"He's real close friend," Smart said of Texas Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp. He told how Muschamp helped Smart get his first college coaching job at Valdosta State. When Muschamp went to LSU with Saban, Muschamp also sold Saban on Smart. Smart was with Saban at LSU, the Miami Dolphins, and now Alabama.

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